Radolf and Caimano Laboratory
Spirochete Morphology and Motility
Spirochetes are highly motile bacteria, and it is generally presumed that motility is essential for the ability of these extremely virulent organisms to disseminate from their sites of inoculation and penetrate diverse target organs. As an extension of our live-imaging work, we are collaborating with Dr. Charles Wolgemuth in the Department of Cell Biology on an innovative project that combines biophysics with bacterial pathogenesis. Dr. Wolgemuth has developed a mathematical model for spirochete motility that describes how coupling of the helical, elastic periplasmic flagella to the cell cylinder creates and maintains spirochete morphology. The model also explains the dynamic shape changes that are produced by rotation of the flagella and which drive swimming behavior. This model was derived from observations of spirochetes in artificial media. In light of our success in introducing fluorescent reporters into B. burgdorferi for live imaging, it is now possible to examine and refine this model by studying the morphology and motility of live Lyme disease spirochetes in collagen matrices as well as in tick and mouse tissues, the milieus directly relevant to virulence and disease pathogenesis. Dr. Wolgemuth recently received an award from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to conduct these investigations. Visit Dr. Wolgemuth's website to learn more about this project and his research program.